Skepticism, Gamergate, Ebola & Election Years

Normally I rant about atheism on this blog, but today I want to focus on skepticism. First I want to clarify what is the difference between the two:

  • Atheism is the belief that there are no such things as deities. No Jehovah, no Gaia, no Odin, no Zeus, no Kali, and no Flying Spaghetti Monster. No gods whatsoever.
  • Skepticism is the practice of questioning claims presented as truths and requiring evidence before accepting them as facts. Is the house haunted? Does the Loch Ness monster exist? Was a working cold fusion generator ever built? Did man actually walk on the moon? Is there a god? Did Elvis own a Studebaker? Skeptics not only ask these questions when a claim is made, but they use logic and reason to discover the truth in each case to either confirm or deny the claims made.

A lot of atheists that I meet are also skeptics. I am an atheist, and I practice skepticism. That does not mean that all atheists are skeptics. You can not believe in a god and still believe in bigfoot simply because someone told you that bigfoot exists. Likewise you can be a skeptic that believes in a god, but I am not quite sure how one could remain a theist for long if he or she is actively practicing skepticism.

The point is that atheism and skepticism are not one in the same, but are complimentary. Skepticism is a practice that I believe makes us better people. I rely on my practice of skepticism to help me not just with claims of the supernatural, but also with claims made that have nothing to do with the supernatural.

I practice skepticism in order to protect myself from myself and others. If you told me that you have magic beans for sale that can grow into a giant bean stalk and lead me to riches, it is my skepticism that helps me avoid becoming a victim of your lying as well as not giving into my own emotional response of wanting riches for little to no work.

So here are some examples of how I am using the practice of skepticism in my day-to-day routine to make better decisions:

  • GamerGate = Bullshit – I am not going to re-tell the story of GamerGate here. You can go to the Wikipedia entry if you want to read up on the whole controversy. For the purpose of this article though I want to explain how skepticism helped me to reach the conclusion that GamerGate is just plain wrong. The claim is that GamerGate is a movement about removing corruption from vide game industry journalists, but the evidence is that GamerGate is about attacking feminism. Now there is most definitely a problem with ethics in the video game industry and the journalists who cover that industry, but when I look at the attacks that were clearly made against women as part of GamerGate’s crusade I’m not buying that ethics in journalism is the core issue of the movement. I’m sure that the Nazis wanted clean drinking water, but that wasn’t the focus of their political agenda either. GamerGate is a bullshit anti-feminist crusade that needs to end.
  • Ebola Will Not Destroy America – Or at least it will not do so anytime in the near future. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is a very real threat that must be addressed, but the fact that only 2 healthcare workers have contracted the disease here in the United States does not equate into a national emergency. By doing some basic research and learning more about the virus, CDC policies, and how we treat people for Ebola I’m certain that much more common diseases are a bigger threat to me than Ebola is at this time. Don’t believe me? Then maybe you should watch this video. Yes, Ebola is a very real thing that could easily kill me. It just is not likely that I or anyone else I am in physical contact with will ever contract the virus.
  • Election Campaign Ads Are Less Reputable Than GamerGate – I am not going to address any one particular campaign ad or candidate. The point is that a healthy bit of skepticism helps you eliminate the influence of negative attack ads on your voting. There is obviously a place for emotion and personal preferences when it comes to choosing a candidate, but the problem is that campaign ads use innuendos and half truths to manipulate those feelings so that voters end up voting against a fictitious boogey man instead of voting for the candidate that is best suited to their needs and wants. Skepticism might just be the cure for dirty politics as it prevents these tactics from being effective. Skepticism will not guarantee that everyone make the best choice in an election, but at least it helps people to focus on the real issues and not the blatant lies that plague any campaign year.

Now you might look at my examples here and think “I want more proof before I agree with these views.”

Great! That is practicing skepticism! You should not simply take my word for it on any of these matters. Go research these issues for yourself, and use logic and reason to come to your own conclusions. Maybe you will uncover evidence that I was unaware of, and that is the whole point of skepticism. We should not simply accept what we are told! We should listen to what others have to say, request evidence to support their claims, and then make a decision based upon that evidence.

So go forth, and be skeptical!